Press Conference with new Commissioner...

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PBP
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Press Conference with new Commissioner...

Post by PBP » Tue May 03, 2016 11:30 am

Had the chance to participate in the Big Sky Conference call with new commissioner Andrea Williams this morning (Tuesday 5-3-16).

Several media members from Spokane, Pocatello, Bozeman and Missoula participated along with Jon Oglesby from the Big Sky Conference and So. Utah president Scott Wyatt.

Given the fact that Williams hasn’t even officially started her tenure yet the responses to most questions were more general in nature…again that’s completely understandable.

I wanted to summarize some of the questions that I found interesting and again this is not a verbatim word for word transcription (frankly I’m not that good to be able to do that! LOL)

I asked Williams about her vision for Big Sky football in the future given the reports of conversations about expansion again, perhaps splitting into two conferences or splitting into two divisions with a championship game.

Williams answered by saying that her evaluations still come from an outsider perspective, time will be needed to more closely look at things. She said coming from the Big 10, with went through expansion and the starting of a championship game, offers some insight into how that all comes about. She said Idaho coming back to the Big Sky for football in 2018 was “significant.” She said regarding the future the two key questions that need to be answered are, what are the priorities of the institutions? And are they positioned where they need to be?

My thought on her answer was that this is still a very fluid situation with no clear path determined yet. In short I guess we’ll have to stay tuned.

Josh from the Idaho State Journal asked her about the attendance issues in the Big Sky for basketball. He mentioned both men and women but I think the numbers show the men’s side is in a more difficult position right now.

Williams’ answer was that it’s a “challenge” but that the Big Sky Conference isn’t alone in the attendance question. It’s happening across the country. She said conferences are competing against a “world of entertainment” not just other sports. She felt part of the solution is that schools have to “keep their fans engaged.” She also mentioned about schools having to look at “non-traditional ways to engage those fans” and also mentioned how teams and coaches have to “engage their communities at the local level” through involvement. She also mentioned schools having a strategic marketing plan to help attendance.

Again just my opinion, but ISU does a very good job in getting their athletes and coaches involved from a community standpoint. That should be a real plus for them.

I asked about the full cost of attendance issues and what that may do to competitive balance in the Big Sky. I specifically mentioned No. Dakota which will offer full cost to their athletes beginning this year and how Idaho’s Rob Spear in a radio interview in September at halftime of their game at USC said that was the Vandals’ plan as well. I stated that some schools in the Big Sky simply won’t be able to do this and will that be a factor?

Williams answered by stating that has been a conversation and is a concern. She said it was a concern even in the Big 10... where do you find the money to do this and how do you take the money you have and assign it? She said each school is going to do what they think is best for them and that schools recruiting in the same state will have to find different ways to leverage their unique situations in terms of recruiting.

Scott Wyatt also chimed in on this question and gave the answer that I found to be the most interesting comment out of the entire press conference.

Wyatt said that in the studies done by the Big Sky the “financial differences were not that far apart” among the institutions. Again I found that very interesting based on open records that disclose how much the athletic budgets are at the different schools in the Big Sky. Wyatt also mentioned that specifically in No. Dakota’s case they do not recruit the same athletes that other schools in the Big Sky do. There’s very little “crossover.” I guess you can infer from that comment that at least at this time the impact of No. Dakota’s decision will be negligible. Time will tell I guess especially if Idaho does begin to offer or the situation changes to where Montana’s and Montana State’s alumni start demanding those schools do as well if they start falling behind say in football.

A few other notes.

Williams mentioned a few times the idea of the Big Sky finding different ways to provide coverage of their sporting events through non-traditional ways. She talked about You Tube and Facebook showing games and the unique ways sports are showcasing themselves… college basketball games on aircraft carriers and hockey games being played in baseball / football stadiums. She didn’t say the Big Sky would be doing those things but I was left with the impression she intends to think outside the box to try to deliver the sports product. Apparently the broadcasting contract with ROOT Sports for football is important. There was no mention at all about a potential basketball deal and the question was never asked.

She said the stability of the Big Sky Conference is very important and stated the student / athlete experience would remain the top priority. She also cautioned though that “external threats” and “litigation” in the next few years will impact how the conference does business. I took that to mean the lawsuits currently in the courts or recently settled on issues like paying athletes or the video game images infringement will certainly have an impact in the future. I also got the sense the idea of future expansion say New Mexico State is still on the table. She used the phrase “low hanging fruit” when talking about this area. I have no idea what other schools could potentially be in the mix, my best guess would be some of the schools currently in the WAC.

I’ll look forward to meeting her at some point in the future, we’re both from Chicago so there’s a connection right there. Hope she’s not a Cub fan though! LOL.

PBP

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SLCBengal
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Re: Press Conference with new Commissioner...

Post by SLCBengal » Tue May 03, 2016 2:24 pm

Thanks -- I appreciate posts like these...

PBP
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Joined: Wed Jan 18, 2012 12:09 pm

Re: Press Conference with new Commissioner...

Post by PBP » Tue May 03, 2016 5:30 pm

Have heard through sources that Big Sky Presidents are scheduled to visit New Mexico State this week...take from that what you will.

PBP

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SLCBengal
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Re: Press Conference with new Commissioner...

Post by SLCBengal » Wed May 04, 2016 2:23 pm

From the Las Cruces Sun-News:
New Mexico State president Garrey Carruthers sent out a short survey for faculty and staff members regarding New Mexico State's conference future.

It's short and sweet but did provide one interesting nugget. I have mentioned the Horizon League as a potential landing spot for Olympic sports but had never been able to determine if it was a realistic option moving forward. You will see that the Horizon is one of the four options in the survey.
We have been in conversation with two other conferences; Horizon (which includes Illinois Chicago, Youngstown State, Oakland, Cleveland State and others) is like the WAC but all teams are located in the Midwest. We have some early conversations with an FCS conference (Big Sky) with most teams located in the western part of the country (such as Cal Poly, UC Davis, Montana, Montana State, Idaho, Northern Arizona, Northern Colorado to name a few). The Big Sky would provide a home for football and most of our remaining sports.
Read more: LCSun-News: NMSU Survey regarding conference alignment, Horizon League?

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